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1 May 2007, No. 2

The definition of compliance
Jennifer Nordstrom | Reaching Critical Will


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At quarter to six on the first day of the PrepCom, Chairman Amano called the question on the disputed agenda and nearly had his gavel down before Iran raised its placard. Iran, which has a problem with the last clause of the proposed substantive agenda, "reaffirming the need for full compliance with the Treaty", suggested the PrepCom adopt an agenda without that clause instead. Delegates seemed relatively surprised at this turn of events, and eventually Germany on behalf of the EU, and Canada spoke in support of Amano's agenda.

After the 2005 Review Conference spent two-thirds of its time arguing over the agenda and other procedural issues, this back and forth is frighteningly familiar. As always, these procedural disagreements are about substance, it is just more difficult to discern what is happening and why. In 2005, Iran and Egypt wanted more recognition of the 2000 disarmament commitments and the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, and more attention paid to negative security assurances. Iran also wanted to avoid any censure of its nuclear programme. The United States wanted to condemn the Iranian programme, and avoid any discussion of its own disarmament commitments from the 1995 and 2000 Review Conferences.

This time around, it appears Iran is alone in trying to avoid censure. The United States agreed to include reference to the outcomes of 1995 and 2000, although 2000 was simply in succession with the outcomes of all other review conferences, and Egypt was apparently satisfied with the reference to the 1995 resolution on the Middle East. Russia, however, spoke last, and invited delegates to "do their homework" and consider Iran's proposal as a compromise to facilitate early agreement on the agenda. Then, the Russian delegate said, anyone could raise any issue at any time. Russia purportedly does not have a problem with Amano's original agenda and its attention to compliance.

Reaching Critical Will decided to take up this invitation to do homework, and compared Amano's proposed agenda with the 2002 PrepCom's agreed agenda that Iran proposed instead. There are two main differences. First, this year's agenda contains a weaker reference to the 2000 outcome, and therefore to the landmark agreement on 13 practical steps to nuclear disarmament. Second, in considering "developments that affect the operation of the Treaty," this agenda adds that the PrepCom should consider "approaches and measures to realize [the Treaty's] purpose, reaffirming the need for full compliance with the Treaty."

Iran obviously thinks "reaffirming the need for full compliance with the Treaty" refers to concerns about its nuclear programme, given the repetition of similar connections in today's General Debate. A large number of governments also called on nuclear weapon states to fulfill their Article VI obligations. As New Zealand said, the obligations states parties have agreed to over the years provide the benchmarks for judging performance. It is important for this PrepCom to assess compliance with the Article VI obligations of the NPT, particularly given that the United Kingdom just agreed to renew Trident, the United States is in the process modernizing it nuclear infrastructure, and France recently expanded the range of situations in which it is willing to use nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, the Treaty does not have a mechanism equivalent to the International Atomic Energy Agency that would assess compliance with Article VI, and the Article VI obligations are not as specific as the non-proliferation obligations. The PrepCom should discuss this institutional deficit and attempt to remedy it. Doing so would increase the balance in the Treaty. States parties who are in compliance  should have no fear of discussing all relevant issues, or strengthening provisions for compliance with all aspects of the Treaty.

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